Skip to main content

Starting Your Career as a PTA

Physical therapist assistants (PTA) enjoy rewarding careers that bring together skills from multiple fields like health, sports medicine, and exercise physiology. It is a growing field that attracts those interested in helping people and who enjoy being active while at work.

PTAs play a major role in the delivery of physical therapy services to a number of populations in a variety of healthcare environments. As part of the physical therapy team, they work hands-on with patients who have chronic disabilities and acute injuries under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. PTAs help patients engage in their own recovery by guiding them through various rehabilitative exercises including stretches, massages, and range-of-motion activities. They can also play a role in educating patients and their families and assisting with post-treatment care.

For many, becoming a PTA means completing academic work in educational and experiential environments to receive both the technical knowledge and hands-on experience using the tools necessary to perform basic job functions.

How to become a physical therapist assistant

This list is a quick overview of how to become a PTA and what Villa Maria College’s PTA program can do to help you launch your healthcare career.

Step 1. Earn a degree from an accredited PTA program

Most PTA programs are a two-year curriculum that prepares you with the knowledge and skills necessary to work under the supervision of a physical therapist. Students will generally spend their first year taking introductory courses in human physiology and anatomy as perquisites to the PTA program. Once fully admitted, you’ll undertake more medically technical coursework in areas like clinical neurology and kinesiology during the final year. As a student at Villa Maria College, your coursework will be toward an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Physical Therapist Assistant.

In addition to the academic work, Villa provides PTA students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the types of clinical settings they could find themselves working in after finding a job. Students are exposed to the patients and treatment scenarios they can expect to find in each setting. These include hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, and sports facilities, among others.

2. Pass the licensing exam

After you have graduated with your A.A.S. in Physical Therapist Assistant, the next step is to sit for the licensing exam called the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This test is administered by the National Licensing Examination Boards of Physical Therapy and the FSBPT.

It is required that you pass the exam before you can practice as a PTA in every state, including Villa Maria College’s home state of New York. Additionally, some states require what’s called a jurisprudence exam to practice, ensuring you are familiar with the laws and rules of that state. Employers will require official proof of passing the NPTE before offering you a job. Those who fail the exam the first time can take it up to two more times in a single calendar year.

Villa recommends studying early and often for this exam. Visit the FSBPT’s website for questions and exam practice materials.

Step 3. Find a job you love as a PTA

Villa students have a 100% rate of job placement for students who have passed their exams. Our faculty have experience and established relationships in the physical therapy field. They can be a resource during the exam preparation process and often maintain contact with students as their careers progress.

Career Services also assists students in their job search by connecting them with professionals in their field and providing them with the tools to put their best foot forward with employers. This program is called FirstHand and it includes helping you prepare a resume and cover letter, learning to use virtual tools like Zoom for interviews, and helping you find the right job opportunities that reflect your interests and goals.